Federal judge J. Ronnie Greer on Friday blocked the implementation of an executive order from Governor Bill Lee that allowed parents to opt-out of mask mandates.
The ruling, which forces Knox County to implement a system-wide mandate, is the second blow to Lee’s executive order and is a temporary injunction until the lawsuit continues through the legal system.
“We are currently reviewing the order to determine what this means for our students and staff,” a spokesperson for Knox County Schools said in a statement.
According to the decision handed down from Greer, the spread of coronavirus is putting the children at risk.
“It is real, and likely. Knox County students are being infected right now, every day, at a rate of 162 students every day … and the threat of harm is therefore (immediate),” Greer detailed.
At the beginning of the month, the school board voted against implementing a mask restriction.
Shortly after, the lawsuit was filed by four families in Knox County that have children with various medical conditions and are too young to receive a coronavirus vaccine. Therefore, the group argued that Lee’s executive order and the lack of a mask mandate did not protect their children from COVID-19 and limited their ability to attend in-person classes.
“There are very strong opinions on both sides of this. I think that’s why the strategy we took, which allowed districts to provide a requirement but gave parents an opt-out, was a good way forward,” Lee said at a press conference. “And we still believe that’s the right direction.”
Lee’s executive order met a similar fate earlier this month when a judge in Shelby County also blocked the option to opt children out of mask requirements in school.
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